Home-Delivered Meals Program

Home-Delivered Meals Program

Mission/Purpose of the ProgramThis is a nutritional program for the aged people started in 1965 under the OAA (Older Americans Act). It is run in different states by different organizations. In Los Angeles for instance it started in 1988 and it was initiated by Los Angeles Department of Aging. It is also known by another name as “Meals on Wheels”. The latter is a popular name in the whole country for provision of meals delivered at home to the older people. The name originated from World War II in Britain where a volunteer woman used to deliver snacks to servicemen while on duty and the soldiers nicknamed it as the “meals on Wheels”. This name has been adopted by many cities as well as area agencies for the aging and also by nonprofit organizations and churches that provides nutritional services.

As previously mentioned this program was developed through the OAA. According to NCPC, n.d), administration on aging gave all state agencies $719 million for instance in 2005 to run these nutrition programs. Therefore, a lot of federal grant to the state goes to funding the meal programs. The meal program is considered to be one of the largest elements of the aging network. The program is run through various area agencies. For instance, LADOA (Los Angeles Department of Aging) is the organization responsible for the program in Los Angeles in California. It is one of the 33 AAAs (Area Agencies on Aging) that are found in California. These agencies were developed in 1963 through a constitutional act known as Older American Act of 1963. These agencies were developed to offer assistance to the older people and their caregivers, so that they could help to make their lives worth living. Accordingly, LADOA was developed in 1973 to act as the vessel for delivering this quality life (LADOA, n.d).

In 1965, a law known as Older American Act, of Title VII (the nutrition program) was passed. This law gave room for provision of meals to senior citizens in locations where they gather together. In 1977, the Congress gave more powers to this act through Title III enabling provision of home-delivered meals. According to Frongilio et al (1987), demand for nutritional services as anticipated then has continued to rise. They give an estimated figure of 175,000 as the number of home-delivered meals served on a daily basis through the act then. Yet, in spite of this expansion only a sizeable number of the total number of older people entitled to get these meals are able to do so. They further points out that at the time of writing their work the Administration on Aging had nationally approximated that about half of all the older people entitled to receive the program were being reached. The LADOA program, which was established at the same time this article was written can be said to have come about in order to address this gap in delivering of government program.

The passing of the Older American Act in 1965 was a very important step forward. That decade from 1960 to 70 was of significant value to America. There was a lot of social change and unrest. It was a period of extending civil rights to millions of Americans. At the time various organizations lobbied the congress to recognize certain rights of American older people. This culminated in the passage of the Act. The purpose of the Act was among others to ensure older people remain at home and guarantee their independence. This was seen as an important move that would keep cost of provision of elderly care institutions low. Lee et al (2008) agree with the argument that this kind of program delay institutionalization and thus lower the health care expenditure on elderly Americans.

The meals on the wheels are a countywide program that is run in various States by different agencies and organizations. In Los Angeles Meals for instance it operates throughout various parts of the city. The intention is to enhance the quality of life, health, independence and dignity of older population in the city. The agency hopes to attain this by running community located senior programs, which are coordinated, comprehensive, and accessible and also champion for the older citizens needs (LADOA, n.d)

The OAA is meant to benefit population above 60 years (NCPC, nd). It goes without saying then that the meal on the wheel goes to benefit this particular segment of the population. Most of the people receiving this type of meal through the program are the elderly and especially women with chronic illness and living alone. Their inability to walk and lack of transportation makes this group of people unable to move outside their homes. Volunteers thus deliver to their residences a hot meal at noon every five days in a week.

Theory/Model the Program is Based UponThe program is based on nutritional values. Scientist provides evidence that if elders can get good nutrition they can stay healthy and live independently within their communities. The OAA envisioned improved nutrient intake by serving elders with five or more meals in a week or more. Under a congregate meal plan the meals are supposed to be served in various types of settings including faith-based and community facilities, senior centers, and adult day care facilities. Within these facilities the older people get an opportunity to interact with other people in a social environment and develop new friends. They may get various types of nutritional related services like nutrition screening, education, assessment, and counseling. They also get health promotion, health screening, as well as other services. This is to improve their well-being and health. Similar to the congregate meals described above Home Delivered Meals (HDM) also enables adults to improve their nutritional intake. The meals provided in this kind of program may be hot, frozen, cold, dried, supplemental or canned food. Apart from that, it can involve provision of the three common meals in a day for a period of 5 days in a week with exceptional delivery during the weekend (NRCNPAA, 2005).

Activities of the ProgramUnder the home delivered meals program LADOA provides meals to elderly people living within their homes. This group of people especially those living on their own tend to miss the opportunity to consume certain types of nutrition’s. In addition, due to certain conditions like illness, loneliness, and depression these elderly people tend to lose their appetite and as a result do not eat properly. Besides, they sometime lack means of transport to go and do some shopping or even they lack the mood to take time and prepare their meals at home (LADOA, 2004). Some of them also spend most of their time at home because they are very weak. As a result, of these numerous challenges this group of people may develop certain illness because of not eating the right type of nutrition’s. Volunteers visit these old people every day at noon to bring them a hot meal. This meal provides them with vital nutrients that otherwise they would have missed. Beside this meal, they get a rare opportunity to interact with other people. This is an opportunity that many people cherish besides the hot meal. These meals are delivered to the elderly people’s home between 11 am and noon every five days within a week (NCPC, n.d). These meals are based on menus prepared by nutritionists to ensure that the elderly consume at least a third of nutritional intake that is recommended in a day. In case, the person delivering the meal finds the resident absent they bring these meals back to the kitchen.

Who Provides themThe services mentioned above are provided by a group of volunteers and through community donations. Besides, there is also a national association that coordinates all the efforts under the program of meals on the wheel and offer training support to over 900 such programs across the country (NCPC, n.d). The spirit of volunteerism and public contributions are major pillars that have supported this program of the meals on wheels. The fo0od provided is prepared by catering companies or in community kitchen. Apart from cost of buying food, workers who prepare the food in the kitchen, transportation, and administrators the other services for the program are provided by volunteers. Volunteers for the program come from different corners. Some of them are elderly people in the community with the desire to serve others or just teenagers who like to serve the elderly. However, in most of the time they come from programs sponsored by employers for volunteers. Many companies recognize the need to for this compassionate service and they allocate time for their employees to dedicate their time as volunteers. Besides, these programs also receive donations from companies especially to take care of transportation, administration, and meal preparation.

Besides, money used in the program comes from a variety of sources. Some come from the local government, and the OOA also provides another avenue to acquire some grant. There is also a good chunk of the fund that comes from community donations.

Program OutcomesThere has been a variety of positive outcomes with regard to the implementation of this program. It has been a solace for many elderly people. First because it provides much needed nutrition to a group of people that otherwise would have suffered hunger and deprivation. According to Ziliak & Gundersen (2009), some 5.7% of elderly people, a ratio that makes 2.7 million people was at risk of suffering from hunger. This is based on survey conducted on CPS (Current Population Survey) report of between 2001 and 2007 on more than 50, 000 households in US for people aged above 60 years. They further states that this was an increase in the number of seniors at risk of food insecurity. Again, that mostly affected group is the poor and seniors residing in some states such as Mississippi, South Carolina among others. Besides, NRCNPAA (2005) notes that the program is beneficial considering that most of the adults discharged from hospitals deserve care plans that provides these kinds of meals as well as various nutrition services. Therefore, we can correctly argue that the program has been a success by providing much needed nutrition at the home level to this vulnerable population.

The program in so doing has also been instrumental in reducing health care costs. Provision of a hot meal per day in every five day within a week has enabled to prolong the lives of these people and to keep them away from institutions. The money that would otherwise go to taking care of a soaring population of sick elderly can now go to other uses. Besides, the plan has also helped to put a smile on these people. These elderly in the absence of the home delivered meals live a quiet and lonely live. They are completely cut off from the social life. The volunteer delivering these meals get an opportunity to interact with them and make them smile. CVAA website notes that the visit by the volunteer is also crucial just like the meal itself. This is because on top of the meal they bring greetings and a friendly smile to the elderly to ensure they are safe and doing well.

In spite of the positive outcomes the program has also had some challenges. First is due to funding. Although many area agencies involved in the program are able to raise funds from the community. They still depend on the federal grants. Cut off of aids from the government has derailed the success of this program in some parts. In affected areas they have had to contemplate a slash of the number of meals served (Covert, 2013). To address this challenge there is need to rethink about the program funding. It may be time to think of funding the program completely from well wishers and corporations social responsibilities plans. There has also been the challenge of targeting. The OAA broadly describes the target population as involving elderly above 60 years. However, as we have noted some people especially low income earners and certain races tend to have more pressing needs. As a result there is need to pay attention to targeting in order to make the program more effective in the future.


City of Los Angeles Department of Aging (LADOA). (2004). Program and Service Provider Directory. Retrieved on 10th May 2013 from: http://aging.lacity.org/pdf/brochures/ProgramandServiceDirectory.pdf

Coty of Los Angeles Department of Aging (LADOA). (n.d). Program & Services. Retrieved on 10th May 2013 from: http://aging.lacity.org/publications/

Covert, B. (2013). “Budget Cuts Devastate Meals on Wheels: Enrollment Slashed, Services Cancelled”. Think progress. Retrieved on 10th may 2013 from: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/05/01/1946271/budget-cuts-meals-on-wheels/?mobile=nc

CVAA. (n.d). Meals on Wheels Nourishes, Comfort, Befriends. Retrieved on 10th may 2013 from: http://www.cvaa.org/meals-on-wheels.html.

Frongilio, E. A., Williamson, D. F., Roe, D. A., and Scholes, J. E. (1987). Continuance of Elderly on Home-Delivered meals programs. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 77(9): 1176-1179.

Lee, J., Frongillo, E.A., Keating M.A, Deutsch, L. H., & Frongillo, D. E. (2008). Targeting of Home-Delivered meals Programs to Older Adults in the United States. Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly, Vol.27(3-4): 405-415.

NCPC-(n.d). National Care Planning Council. Community Aging Services and Senior Centers. Retrieved on 10th May 2013 from: http://www.longtermcarelink.net/eldercare/aging_services_senior_centers.htm,

NRCNPAA-National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity & Aging. (2005). Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs Toolkit. http://nutritionandaging.fiu.edu/OANP_Toolkit/toolkit%20update%202.7.06.pdf

Ziliak, J., and Gundersen, C. (2009, Sept). Senior Hunger in The Uniuted States: Differences Across States and Rural and Urban Areas. University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research Special Reports. Retrieved on 10th may 2013 from: http://www.mowaa.org/document.doc?id=193